Winter is coming: Destinations within New York continue to be popular with travelers

Donna Christopher, Special to The Journal News
·7 min read

The travel industry has been sorely impacted by COVID-19. With fewer traveling for business, especially by air, and restrictions preventing others from typical vacation destinations, road trips surged in popularity during the summer and into fall.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans are logging more miles on road trips this year compared to 2019, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, a USA TODAY Network publication, reports.

It’s likely that road trips will continue as the winter and holiday months approach, especially within New York state, as continuing — and changing — quarantine regulations on nearby states impacted by COVID-19 restrict travelers.

A recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll found that 50% of Americans are limiting themselves to travel within their home state.

There's the traditional and some new holiday attractions in 2020 at the Mohonk Mountain House.
There's the traditional and some new holiday attractions in 2020 at the Mohonk Mountain House.

Since reopening, some destinations — normally slow after Labor Day — report they are booked solid through Thanksgiving. The Tiny House Resort in Cairo, for example, has no openings for its 13 units until early December.

Reservations for November have picked up at the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mount Tremper, too, said a spokesperson, with rooms filling up due to the news that nearby ski resorts will be able to open that month at 50% capacity.

At Hunter Mountain, where the ski season opens Nov. 10, sales of seasonal passes are up 18% over last year, according to Jamie Storrs, senior manager of communications for Vail Resorts, which owns the resort.

Travelers looking for a winter respite that provides plenty of access to outdoor activities may find popular spots booked early, just as with the summer.

Since reopening in June, the Mohonk Mountain House, which marked its 150th anniversary last year, has seen a steady increase in occupancy.

There's the traditional and some new holiday attractions in 2020 at the Mohonk Mountain House.
There's the traditional and some new holiday attractions in 2020 at the Mohonk Mountain House.

"We’re very thankful for our guests’ continued support, and we expect to see a healthy amount of guests this winter,” said General Manager Barbara Stirewalt.

If you're planning winter or holiday travel in New York, here are some suggestions. Note that all hotels and resorts have COVID-19 restrictions in place in terms of capacity, social distancing and mask wearing, and all list their cleaning protocols on their websites. Please check websites or call ahead for more details.

There's the traditional and some new holiday attractions in 2020 at the Mohonk Mountain House.
There's the traditional and some new holiday attractions in 2020 at the Mohonk Mountain House.

Mohonk Mountain House

Founded by the Smiley Family in 1869, the resort, a National Historic Landmark, is situated in 40,000 acres of forest. During the winter, the hotel offers winter hiking, ice skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Why you should go: New this season is Victorian Holidays, featuring live music, ice skating in the open-air pavilion and an array of outdoor activities scheduled daily. There's also holiday fun throughout December, including Victorian Carolers.

“Holiday lights will be twinkling across Lake Mohonk thanks to the handiwork of the greenhouse team who will ‘deck the halls’ with classic decorations throughout the historic property,” Stirewalt noted.

The Christmas Tree Tour will give guests the chance to see uniquely decorated Christmas trees and absorb the artful mastery of gingerbread displays created by the all-stars from the Hudson Valley Gingerbread Competition. The greenhouse courtyard will also be transformed into an immersive display of Mohonk’s “Winter Lights.”

If you go: Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, 845-765-3286, mohonk.com

Full Moon Resort, Big Indian

Both rustic and sophisticated, this coveted wedding venue is also a resort situated on a hundred acres of meadows, forests and fresh-water streams. Lodging is available in winter only.

Why you should go: The property is close to Woodstock and Esopus Creek, known for prized trout fishing. There are also prime hiking trails and skiing, with Belleayre Mountain Ski Center close by. Hiking is a big activity for guests. "We are in the heart of the forest preserve surrounded by 80,000 acres of forever wild preserve,” said Full Moon Resort owner Henry Stout.

What you should know: Accommodations are booked through Airbnb. "Our clubhouse is open for guest use and the Inn is divided into suites in order to assure that every booking has a private bath," said Stout. Guests can dine out at area eateries. “There are many restaurants, from fine dining at the Peekamoose to throwbacks at the Phoenicia Diner,” said Stout.

If you go: Full Moon Resort, 12 Valley View Road, Big Indian, 845-254-5117, fullmoonresort.com

Plan to ski?

Ski slopes in New York will be allowed to open with significant COVID-19 restrictions in place beginning Nov. 6, including limiting guests to 50% of capacity. Among other restrictions: Skiers will be required to wear masks and maintain social distance; lifts and gondola carts will be limited to members of the same party; while individual ski lessons will be capped at no more than 10 people.

Ski resorts will also be required to reduce their allowable capacity on the mountains by 25% on days with peak attendance, or on days where multiple trails are closed due to conditions, according to the state.

Hunter Mountain

Ski season passes are on sale now for Hunter Mountain's opening day on Nov 20. New this season is the Epic Pass that entitles you to ski at 34 Vail Resorts in the United States — including several in New Hampshire and Mt. Snow in Vermont.

Hunter covers 320 acres and offers 13 lifts and 67 trails for levels of ability. There is also off-road trail riding for touring vehicles and snow tubing for winter fun. The Colorado-based Vail Resorts purchased Hunter Mountain Resort in 2019. “Sales (of season passes) are up 18% over this time last year,” said Jamie Storrs, senior manager of Communications, Vail Resorts, Eastern Region.

What to know: "We’ve got an amazing range of terrains for all skiers from beginners to experts, and a very strong history of snowmaking. We’re adding to our snowmaking fleet to deliver better conditions for our customers."

Storrs said Hunter caters to families. "It is a very enjoyable place to be, very much a resort for everybody, from families to expert (skiers). We have some great beginner terrain and steep double-back diamond (runs). We get two and three generations of families come to ski together," said Storrs.

Lodging is available at the Kaatskill Mountain Club. Other lodging options are found on Airbnb. Hunter has a day lodge to get suited up or get a bite to eat, rent equipment and book lessons.

If you go: Hunter Mountain Resort, 64 Klein Ave., Hunter, 800-486-8376, huntermtn.com

Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, Highmount

If you're not into snow sports, there's still time to take advantage of fall foliage gondola rides at Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Highmount. But soon skiing and boarding will take over this day trip destination.

“It’s a nice day out in the fresh air. We are a family mountain. You’ll find mom, dad and kids. We have everything from steeps to bumps, long cruiser trails with big wide turns down, and the only gondola in the Catskills to take in the best views," said Marketing Manager Joe McCracken.

What to know: Belleayre has 50 trails, parks and glades, a vertical drop of 1,404 feet, eight lifts and four lodges. “Whether you are a beginner or an expert we have something for you. From easy green runs to the bumps and glades of the expert terrain, you will find something to enjoy,” McCracken noted.

Season passes are on sale locally. There is no lodging at the center but plenty of bed & breakfast, motel and inn options in the vicinity. Dining on the mountain is available for lunch and sit-down meal service, and takeout at a marketplace and snack shop.

If you go: Belleayre Mountain, 181 Galli Curci Road, Highmount, 845-254-616, belleayre.com

Hotel Kinsley, designed by Studio Robert McKinley is a new addition in Kingston.
Hotel Kinsley, designed by Studio Robert McKinley is a new addition in Kingston.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Winter travel plans: Where to go in NY state in 2020